Robin Fowler definitely has the best compost heaps in the Dargle. After spending an inspiring morning building one at a workshop at Dovehouse Organic Farm, he was determined to make the most of all the resources on his own farm. Soon he had gathered all the staff (from farm, house and workshop) for a fun filled morning of sharing information and action. The tractor driver was probably a bit startled at this change to his morning schedule, but living with the creative Fowlers means you are often pleasantly surprised!
Making compost is much like making lasagne or trifle, lots of colourful layers adding up to something extra special. The bottom layer is branches and twigs for air circulation, next add brown – dried leaves or grass – for the carbon layer. Then comes the green layer, rich in nitrogen, of weeds, clippings, comfrey and old veggies. A layer of manure really speeds things up, so add this next and then repeat all the layers, watering each one as you go until the pile is at least 1m high. Cover with a thick layer of leaves, straw or old newspapers and leave your ‘cake’ to cook for a couple of months. To ensure your heap heats up properly, it shouldn’t be smaller than 1mx1m square.
Tinks and Robin were energised after watching the movie ‘Power of Community’ about the Cuban response to their oil crisis and transition to organic farming. While they already had a small vegetable garden, they have now created a fabulous food garden in raised beds. The garden is bounded by a chicken run filled with contented hens that help keep the insects down and deter the kikuyu from creeping in. Of course, there is also a ring of comfrey for use in the compost heaps. There are broad beans in spring, aubergines in autumn and enormous cauliflowers in winter. Tinks loves nothing more than wandering around the garden gathering ingredients for a completely local supper. Being a cabinetmaker, Robin has made very stylish potato towers – similar to the idea of piling tyres up around the new growth – but using non-toxic and attractive wooden planks instead.
Why not invite your friends and neighbours for a morning of compost making fun and reward them with real lasagne or trifle when it is done? The process is truly magic. Deli Ngubane reported that she had made a compost heap at her home in Nxamalala village the very next weekend after Robin’s workshop, and since then a number of other staff have mentioned that they too have started gardening.
Should you not have space to build a ‘proper’ heap, dig a hole in your garden and toss in all you kitchen waste, leaves, clippings adding a little of the removed soil every now and again. One full, cover with the soil and leave the earthworms to do the work for you. These holes are ‘vitamin pills for your garden’, so as soon as one is full, dig another beside it.